And you may ask yourself...what have I done?*
You’ve finally done it! You’ve spent hours/days/weeks researching on the internet. You’ve asked all your trusted contacts for their opinions (however unqualified they may be). You read all the posts about earnings (real, exaggerated, imagined, or hoped for). The decision has been made, your background checks out OK, and now you’re in possession of a valid log-in to your preferred delivery platform(s).
It’s time to head down the on-ramp, and blaze your own trail in the world of gig driving!
Not so fast, my friend. Pump the brakes for a moment and make sure you’re prepared for your encounters.
I’ve listed below a number of items to consider before you take your first delivery offer. Of course, everyone’s situation is different, and you may feel differently than I do about what’s necessary to be a safe and successful delivery driver. If you do, I truly encourage you to share your thoughts back to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may include them in a future posting on this subject.
First, and maybe most importantly, take a moment to set your mind and your heart in the right place to start interacting with the public. Putting yourself in the service mindset, and remembering what you’re doing this gig for, will help carry you through the successes and failures and delights and disappointments that will cross your path today.
Set a goal for yourself for each day, be it an earnings target or an hours target or a combination of both. I set both - that way, if things are paying well on a particular day, I don’t quit early because I made my target early. By working the regular number of hours, I’ll get ahead on those good days (which will offset some of the not-quite-as-good days).
Are there items you may choose NOT to deliver?
Remember, this is YOUR business and you don’t HAVE to accept every delivery request.
For the platforms you choose to work with, think about what you could be asked to deliver and if you’d be comfortable doing it.
For example, some platforms are now enabling liquor deliveries. You may have to take special training, or perform specific tasks related to liquor delivery. Do you want to take on those deliveries? Is the reward worth the possible risk? Only you can decide this for yourself.
Reference my other post on this platform for thoughts about etiquette and personal care that are important for this work.
Protective clothing and PPE
Be sure to have a jacket/hoodie/gloves and comfortable shoes (perhaps waterproof?), especially this time of year when the weather swings from cold to warm in the course of a day.
Remember you’ll be in and out of your car 30-50 times in a typical shift, and your body needs to have a somewhat stable environment to avoid being chilled and overheated. PPE is generally available for free from the major platforms - take advantage of it.
Eye protection from the sun
Even on cloudy days, your eyes are exposed to heavy doses of UV light which will make them tired, sore, and harder to see out of. UV-blocking and polarized sunglasses are fairly inexpensive and certainly worth the investment.
Most all the platforms offer for sale, and encourage you to wear, some articles of clothing with their brand/logo on them somewhere. Hats, t-shirts, polo shirts, gloves, and on and on. It’s a personal choice. Personally, I don’t wear anything like that and the lack of it hasn’t seemed to hurt me. When I enter a restaurant, I always bring a logo-bearing thermal bag with me and that also identifies me as a delivery person. Aside from those, I don’t feel the need to be an advertisement for the platform, especially if you’re working with multiple platforms.
How you choose to address your own personal safety is, again, very much a personal choice and must be made in consideration of your platforms’ rules/contracts, your municipal code, and your level of comfort with the various options. I’m simple in this regard: Work at times of day and in areas of town where you are comfortable. You don’t want the hair on the back of your neck rising to attention every time you hear a noise.
Notify your trusted contacts of your work plan
Let them know where and when and if you’ll be checking in with them. Many of the apps let you share your real-time location with your contacts. Android and iOS have safety mechanisms in them you can use if you wish. Android, for example, allows you to set a check-in timer and if you don’t respond to its check-in prompt, it will start notifying your safety contacts.
I carry a large maglite-style LED flashlight. It has a powerful beam useful for finding houses at night, and it also can be very distracting if shined in an evil player’s eyes. Given its length and weight, it can also serve as a make-shift club in case you need to tenderize a steak while you are out and about. ;)
Always lock your doors immediately upon entering and exiting your vehicle
I only unlock them just before I’m ready to open the door. Once I get in the car after a delivery, I leave the area as quickly as possible. If I have “paperwork” to finish up, I do it down the road a bit. In case anyone was watching me, I don’t want to give them an easy target.
Be aware of your surroundings
Look around before getting out of your car, or back into it. You’re delivering items, not picking up passengers. There usually isn’t a good reason for there to be a group of people awaiting your arrival.
No delivery payment is worth the price of your safety and peace of mind. In the words of Monty Python, “run away, run away” at any time it’s appropriate.
Prepare your vehicle (my inner “dad” comes out here)
Have a set of good (meaning heavy-duty wire and jacketing) jumper cables in the vehicle and KNOW HOW TO USE THEM BEFORE YOU HAVE A DEAD BATTERY! Alternately, buy a high-power portable power bank that’s built to also be able to jumpstart your car. They aren’t very expensive, and they can also charge your phone, saving you from having to separately carry a power-bank for your phone.
4-way lug wrench (or cross wrench)
The lug wrench that comes with most cars may not give you the leverage you need to loosen stuck or tight lug wrenches. Or, the lug wrench that came with your vehicle may not even be in it (the victim of too many helpful loanings to friends, perhaps?). Like the jumper cable situation, know how to jack up your vehicle to change a tire BEFORE YOU HAVE A FLAT TIRE.
Carry a 1-gallon gas can, and FILL IT with gas
I can’t tell you how many times that’s saved me from a marathon walk in the worst weather. I’m sure this would never happen to you, but sometimes I get caught up in the delivery cycle and forget about the gas warning my car is giving me and (no surprise here) it chug-chug-chugs to a stop at the worst time or place.
Don’t drive on bald (or worse) tires
If you haven’t paid attention to your tires in a while, take a close look at them. You’re going to be racking up the miles and they can literally save your life, even in dry weather. If you see no tread, or see the belts showing at all, there is no time to lose. Replace them right away! And, if your budget is tight, consider buying used tires. You can find them with at least half the tread on them, if not more, for half the cost (or less) of new tires.
Wash your vehicle when it looks dirty
Remember, you’re delivering people’s meals. They don’t want to wonder how sanitary you and vehicle are.
Get some thermal bags
Some platforms provide you with delivery bags that are lined and have nice fabric handles that convert from upright to horizontal to serve as pizza delivery bags as well. Some platforms only sell them to you. Either way, it’s well worth having a few to keep things warm. The fresher the meal, the higher the potential is for tips! You’ll also distinguish yourself from many other drivers who don’t use them.
While we’re on the subject, take them into the restaurant with you. You’d be surprised how much food cools in the open air between there and your vehicle. The inside of your vehicle may be cold in the summer, and that’s bad for things that should stay hot.
You’ll be able to drive in comfort, too, knowing the food is being kept warm. Yes, I know that it feels weird carrying a bag into the restaurant the first few times, and you may be viewed as a delivery “nerd” by others for doing so. But, those people aren’t paying your bills, so don’t give them a second thought.
Protect the inside of your vehicle
Common sense dictates that at one point or another you’ll have a spill of a soda or, worse, a milkshake. Inexpensive seat covers will protect your upholstery and save tons of time not needing to clean it. I always put delivery items in the back seat, just to distance them from me for cleanliness, and especially with our current pandemic situation.
Secure your delivery
You’re a perfect driver, but those around you aren’t. When you have to make a fast stop, it’s best if your delivery items don’t keep moving forward on their own.
You can put filled thermal bags behind a seat belt. Don’t trust the flimsy beverage carriers restaurants give you - I’ve had too many fail and dump the liquids inside my car or on the ground. Either buy strong reusable carriers yourself, or put drinks in the cup holders in your rear seat/armrest for safe transit. I can carry two drinks in my hands once I’ve arrived by using a food bag’s shoulder straps and tucking a flashlight under my arm.
Prepare to handle a vehicle issue
Your vehicle is your lifeline for making money in this business. If it breaks, you need to be prepared to fix it as quickly as possible to minimize your loss of income. Prepare a budget of likely vehicle-related expenses (gas, oil changes, brake jobs, tires, etc) and set aside enough each day/week to build a repair fund.
This covers my thoughts about preparing yourself and your vehicle for running a delivery business. An area of its own that I’ll address in a future posting is preparing your phone to be the best tool possible for you.
Please share your comments and additions to this topic with me at email@example.com. I’ll include appropriate and useful comments in a future posting.
*Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime, February 1981